Dec 10, 2022 I Nick Redfern

The Yeren: An Ancient, Chinese Cousin of the United States' Bigfoot?

Bigfoot: it’s a controversy-filled word that is instantly recognizable to just about one and all. And, regardless of whether one is a true believer, an open-minded skeptic, a definitive non-believer, or a semi-interested observer of the controversy, pretty much everyone knows what the word implies and describes: a large, hair-covered, ape-style animal that is said to roam, and lurk within, the mysterious, forested wilds of the United States. The number of people who claim to have seen a Bigfoot is, now, in the thousands. The beast has been the subject of big-bucks, hit movies. Today’s world of reality television loves the legendary monster – viewing figures make that abundantly clear. It occupies the minds and weekends of monster hunters and creature seekers everywhere, each and every one of them hoping to be the person who finally bags a Bigfoot and, as a result, goes down in history. But, there’s more to Bigfoot than that. In fact, there’s far more.

The term, “Bigfoot,” was created in 1958, when huge, apelike footprints were found in Del Norte County, California. We have a journalist named Andrew Genzoli, of the Humboldt Times, to thank for coming up with the famous, monstrous moniker. It’s a fact, however, that giant, lumbering, hair-covered, upright creatures have been encountered in the United States for centuries, and long before “the B word” was even a dim blip on anyone’s radar. Ancient Native American lore tells of the legendary, and sometimes savage, beasts that were as feared as they were revered. Encounters with violent, so-called “wild men,” of thick woods and ice cold, frozen mountains, were regularly reported in the pages of 19th Century-era American newspapers.

(Nick Redfern) Anomalous apes: the Yerens

Photographs and film-footage – of varying degrees of credibility and clarity – purport to show the elusive animals, in action, so to speak. Audio-recordings exist of the creatures’ eerie chatter and bone-chilling screaming. Startling witness accounts abound. There are whispers that elements of the U.S. Government have the bodies of several Bigfoot on ice, hidden at some Area 51-style, secret installation. There are claims of a UFO link to Bigfoot. Theorists suggest the reason why we lack a body of a Bigfoot, and the reason for their near-mystifying, overwhelming elusiveness, is because the creatures are the denizens of a vast underworld; animals that spend most of their time living in dark caves and deep caverns, unknown to man, and which extend and spread out for miles underground. Then, there is the matter of the other Bigfoot-like creatures. That’s right: while Bigfoot – also known as Sasquatch - is certainly America’s most famous unknown ape, it’s far from being a solitary monster. Florida is home to the Skunk Ape. Southern Arkansas has the Beast of Boggy Creek. Texas is the domain of the Lake Worth Monster. In fact, the creature has been seen in every single U.S. state – aside, reportedly, from Hawaii, which is not surprising, given that it is not connected to the mainland.

Bigfoot, and somewhat similar creatures, extends widely, and wildly, outside of the United States, too. Australia can boast of its own equivalent to Bigfoot. Its name is the Yowie. And, just like Bigfoot, the Yowie is a towering, hairy, man-like animal, one best avoided at all costs. In China there are reports of a similar creature, the Yeren. The Abominable Snowman – also known as the Yeti – forages on, and around, the vast Himalayas of Tibet. The cold, harsh landscape of Russia is the territory of the Almasty. Even the people of England and Scotland claim to have such legendary beasts in their midst. The names of the animals of the U.K. include the Big Grey Man, the Beast of Bolam, and the Man-Monkey. Moving on, and demonstrating that there are very few places on the planet that do not appear to be home to cryptid apes and monkeys of very strange kinds, there is the Orang-pendek of Sumatra, India’s Mandeburung, the Kikomba of the Congo, Pakistan’s Bar-manu, the Hibagon of Japan, Cuba’s Guije, and the Mumulou of the Solomon Islands. And that’s just barely touching upon what amounts to a vast, monstrous menagerie of Bigfoot-like creatures seen across pretty much the entirety of the globe. With all that said, it’s now time for you to join me on a strange, wild story of one specific unidentified ape: the Yeren.

Next to the legendary fire-breathing dragon, it’s China’s most famous monster: the Yeren, a huge, unidentified ape that almost certainly – in terms of its close proximity – has connections to the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, and the various, large and similar animals said to roam the huge mountains, such as the Nyalmo. While Yeren have been seen in a number of areas of China, certainly the one area – more than any other – that is a hotbed for sightings is Hubei, a province located in central China. It’s a vast place dominated by numerous mountains – including the Daba Mountains and the Wudang Mountains – and the Jianghang Plain. Hubei is also a province through which flows the massive, near-4,000-mile-long Yangtze River. It’s specifically the western portion of Hubei in which the Yeren has been spotted – an area noted for its dense forest and treacherous mountains. As for what the Yerens are, that is the big question: at the top of the list is Gigantopithecus, a massive, presumed extinct, ape that certainly dwelled in China hundreds of thousands of years ago – and which, perhaps, may not be quite so extinct, after all. Coming in at a close second is the theory that the animal represent some form of huge, and unacknowledged, kind of Orangutan.

(Nick Redfern) Mysterious apes everywhere

Interestingly, just like Bigfoot in the United States, the Yeren comes in a variety of colors. Its hair has been described as red, brown, black, and even – on a few occasions – black. As for its height, while most reports describe creatures of around the average height of an adult human male to about eight feet, there are a number of cases involving colossal mountain monsters in excess of ten feet. Despite their imposing appearances, however, the Yeren are said to be relatively placid, quiet creatures that shun humankind. Sightings of the Yeren cannot be blamed upon hype born out of the fascination for Bigfoot. That much is made abundantly clear by the fact that reports of these immense animals have been reported for centuries. A translated, 17th century document from Hubei notes: “In the remote mountains of Fangxian County, there are rock caves, in which live hairy men as tall as three meters. They often come down to hunt dogs and chickens in the villages. They fight with whoever resists.” Of course, the final comment, about the creatures being prone to violence, suggests that if, one day, you are confronted by a Yeren, do not assume it’s as docile as many cryptozoologists claim it to be! Also, the reference to the Yeren’s hunting dogs adds weight to the notion that dogs and Bigfoot are hardly on friendly terms – as we have seen previously. 

The evidence for the existence of the Yeren in more recent years is equally impressive. In 1940, it’s said that the body of a dead Yeren turned up in Gansu. Female and over six feet in height, it was examined by a biologist named Wang Tselin, who was a graduate of the Faculty of Biology at Chicago. Interestingly, Tselin was unable to figure out if the beast was some form of ape, a primitive human, or something that was an odd combination of both. In Tselin’s own words: “Around September or October, we were travelling from Baoji to Tianshui via Jiangluo City; our car was between Jiangluo City and Niangniang Plain when we suddenly heard gunshots ahead of us. When the car reached the crowd that surrounded the gunman, all of us got down to satisfy our curiosity. We could see that the ‘wildman’ was already shot dead and laid on the roadside. The body was still supple and the stature very tall, approximately 2 metres. The whole body was covered with a coat of thick greyish-red hair which was very dense. Since it was lying face-down, the more inquisitive of the passengers turned the body over to have a better look. It turned out to be a mother with a large pair of breasts, the nipples being very red as if it had recently given birth. The hair on the face was shorter. The face was narrow with deep-set eyes, while the cheek bones and lips jutted out. The scalp hair was roughly one chi long and untidy. The appearance was very similar to the plaster model of a female Peking Man. However, its hair seemed to be longer and thicker than that of the ape-man model. It was ugly because of the protruding lips."

The story continues: “According to the locals, there were two of them, probably one male and the other female. They had been in that area for over a month. The ‘wildmen’ had great strength, frequently stood erect and were very tall. They were brisk in walking and could move as rapidly uphill as on the plain. As such, ordinary folks could not catch up with them. They did not have a language and could only howl.” Moving onto the 1970s, and specifically May 1976, there is a fascinating story of a number of government personnel – all based at Hubei – who, as they drove along a stretch of road dominated by thick woods in the early, pre-dawn hours, came face to face with a Yeren. In its haste to escape from the approaching jeep, the red-haired creature raced up a slope, but lost its footing and tumbled onto the road, landing right in front of the shocked group. Reportedly, the animal did not rear up onto its legs, but took a crouching stance – perhaps intended to intimidate the group by provoking fear it was about to lunge at them. Fortunately, that did not happen. What did happen is that the beast raced off, yet again – after one of the men hurled a stone in its direction. Although the creature had undeniable physical traits of an ape, its eyes were described as being eerily human-like, displaying intelligence and inquisitiveness.

(Nick Redfern) A mountainous monster

As sightings of the creatures continued to be reported in the 1970s, and then into the 1980s, the Chinese Academy of Sciences got in on the act, and established an ambitious program to try and resolve the mystery of the Yeren, once and for all. It was no easy task, and no hard, undeniable evidence ever surfaced. That’s not to say there was a shortage of credible witness testimony, however: the reports poured in. One such witness said to the academy of their encounter with a Yeren: “He was about seven feet tall, with shoulders wider than a man’s, a sloping forehead, deep-set eyes and a bulbous nose with slightly upturned nostrils. He had sunken cheeks, ears like a man’s but bigger, and round eyes, and also bigger than a man’s. His jaw jutted out and he had protruding lips. His front teeth were as broad as a horse’s. His eyes were black. His hair was dark brown, more than a foot long and hung loosely over his shoulders. His whole face, except for the nose and ears, was covered with short hairs. His arms hung below his knees. He had big hands with fingers about six inches long and thumbs only slightly separated from the fingers. He didn’t have a tail, and the hair on his body was short. He had thick thighs, shorter than the lower part of his leg. He walked upright with his legs apart. His feet were each about 12 inches long and half that broad in front and narrow behind, with splayed toes. He was a male. That much I saw clearly.”

Moving onto the 1990s, as the late monster authority Brad Steiger noted: “In October 1994, the Chinese government established the Committee for the Search for Strange and Rare Creatures, including among its members specialists in vertebrate paleontology and paleoanthropology. A loose consensus among interested members from the Chinese Academy of Sciences maintains that the Yeren are some species of unknown primates.” Today, the search for the Yeren continues in China, in much the same way that Bigfoot is sought in the United States and the Yowie in Australia.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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